Thursday, 14 November 2013


This recent interview with Gary Lachman about Hermes Trismegistus and Hermeticism made me reach for my copy of Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances Yates.  Despite doubts about the reliability of their scholarship - voiced particularly by Brian Vickers - Yates' books have been hugely influential and for many were their introduction to various occult movements and ideas: Rosicruciansim and the House of Memory for example.   On p.54 I found a wonderful passage from the fourth book of Picatrix (Sloane 1305, f.III recto) describing a city said to be founded by Hermes in Egypt:

' There are among the Chaldeans very perfect masters in this art and they affirm that Hermes was the first who constructed images by means of which he knew how to regulate the Nile against the motion of the moon.  This man also built a temple to the Sun, and he knew how to hide himself from all so that no one could see him, although he was within it.  It was he, too, who in the East of Egypt constructed a city twelve miles (miliaria) long within which he constructed a castle which had four gates in each of its four parts.  On the eastern gate he placed the form of an Eagle; on the western gate the form of a Bull; on the southern gate the form of a Lion, and on the northern gate he constructed the form of a Dog.  Into these images he introduced spirits which spoke with voices, nor could anyone enter the gates of the City except by their permission.  There he planted trees in the midst of which was a great tree which bore the fruit of all generation.  On the summit of the castle he caused to be built a tower thirty cubits high on the top of which he ordered to be placed  a light-house (rotunda) the colour of which changed every day until the seventh day after which it returned to the first colour, and so the City was illuminated with these colours.  Near the City there was an abundance of waters in which dwelt many kinds of fish.  Around the circumference of the City he placed engraved images and ordered them in such a manner that by their virtue the inhabitants were made virtuous and withdrawn from all wickedness and harm.  The name of the City was Adocentyn.'

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